Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. off to hot start in summer league play

Houston Rockets' Jabari Smith Jr. (1) drives against San Antonio Spurs' Devonte' Graham during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, March 4, 2023, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate) (Darren Abate, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. is putting in the work and looks poised to make a leap as he heads into his second NBA season.

The No. 3 pick in the 2022 draft capped his first summer league performance this season with a game-winning 3-pointer in a 100-99 victory over Portland on Friday, scoring 29 of his 33 points in the second half. He followed that by posting 38 points, seven rebounds and six assists on Sunday in a 113-101 win over Detroit.

Smith is showing variety at a high level, from hitting 3-pointers to rebounding to handling the ball at 6-foot-11.

“I think it shows that he's growing as a player, he's blossoming as a player." Rockets summer league coach Ben Sullivan said after the win over Detroit. "He has a lot of stuff that he's really good at, and he's putting it all together.”

The Rockets were thrilled when Smith, expected by many to go No. 1 overall in last year's draft, slipped to No. 3. He had a solid first season with 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game and made the All-Rookie second-team. However, the former Auburn star didn’t get a single vote for rookie of the year. Oklahoma City’s Jalen Williams, Utah’s Walker Kessler, Indiana’s Bennedict Mathurin, Sacramento’s Keegan Murray and Detroit’s Jaden Ivey all got rookie of the year votes, despite being drafted after Smith.

Smith immediately got back to work after the season and looks comfortable in the system of new coach Ime Udoka. He leads the summer league in free throws made and attempted per game.

“Learning a new offense, learning a new play style, new defensive coverages, new teammates, new faces on the bench — it’s just going out there getting reps," Smith said. "Playing in a different role and just having fun.”


Sam Merrill hit eight 3-pointers and scored 27 points, second-round pick Emoni Bates added 21 and Cleveland cruised to a victory over Memphis on Day 4 of the NBA Summer League.

Merrill buried 8 of 11 shots from beyond the arc for the unbeaten Cavaliers (3-0). Bates made 7 of 11 shots, including 5 of 8 from distance, added four rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

David Roddy topped the Grizzlies (1-1) with 18 points. Kenneth Lofton Jr. finished with 15 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals. Second-round pick Gregory Jackson II had 10 points and five boards off the bench.

SUNS 73, HEAT 70

Barry Brown Jr. scored 14 points and Gabe Brown and Toumani Camara each added 11 to lead Phoenix over Miami.

Brown also had seven rebounds and four steals for the Suns (1-1). Camara made 4 of 8 shots, but missed all three of his 3-point tries and five of eight free throws. He also had six of Phoenix’s 16 turnovers.

Jamal Cain scored 18 points to lead the Heat (1-1). Orlando Robinson contributed 15 points and nine rebounds. First-round pick Jaime Jaquez Jr. did not play.


First-round pick Keyonte George and Johnny Juzang each scored 26 points to lead Utah past Minnesota.

George, chosen 16th overall, added seven assists and was the only one of Utah’s three first-round picks to play. Taylor Hendricks, the No. 9 pick, and Brice Sensabaugh, chosen 28th, were inactive. George made 5 of 10 shots from 3-point range, while Juzang sank 4 of 5 for the Jazz (2-0).

Minnesota’s top pick Leonard Miller, chosen with third selection in the second round, finished with 20 points to lead the Timberwolves (1-1). Josh Minott scored 19. Second-rounder Jaylen Clark did not play.


Jordan Bowden came off the bench to score 13 of his 18 points in a dominant first half as Los Angeles eased past Sacramento.

Bowden shot 7 of 9 from the field, including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc, and sparked the Clippers to a 44-25 lead at halftime.

Kobe Brown, the last pick of the first round, started and contributed 12 points and eight rebounds for the Clippers (1-1). Brown made 5 of 14 shots. He sank 1 of 6 from distance and made 1 of 4 at the line. Second-rounder Jordan Miller also started, finishing with six points and three rebounds.

Two of three second-round picks played for the Kings (1-1). Colby Jones started and had team highs of 19 points and nine rebounds. Jalen Slawson had two points and three assists off the bench. Keon Ellis pitched in with 16 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.

MAVERICKS 111, 76ERS 103

Jaden Hardy scored 13 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter and Dallas rallied from a 15-point deficit to beat Philadelphia.

Hardy made just 5 of 17 shots with two 3-pointers. He made 12 of 13 free throws for the Mavericks (1-1), who trailed 89-74 entering the final period.

Dereck Lively, the 12th overall pick in this year’s draft, finished with eight points and 11 rebounds for Dallas. Olivier-Maxence Prosper, the 24th overall pick, added 10 points and seven boards.

DJ Steward scored 24 points to pace the 76ers (1-1), who did not have a pick in the draft. Terquavion Smith pitched in with 18 points, six rebounds and six assists.


Andrew Nembhard finished with 21 points and seven assists, and all four Indiana draft picks saw action in a victory over Orlando.

Jarace Walker, the eighth overall pick, totaled 16 points, four rebounds and four assists for the Pacers (2-0). First-rounder Ben Sheppard, 26th overall, started and finished with 16 points and nine rebounds. Second-round picks Isaiah Wong and Mojave King scored six points apiece off the bench. Isaiah Jackson contributed 13 points and 11 rebounds.

The Magic (0-2) started both of their first-round selections. Anthony Black, the sixth overall pick, had eight points and seven rebounds. Jett Howard, the 11th overall pick, added 10 points and five assists. Caleb Houston led Orlando with 18 points.


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